Sino Swearingen awaits FAA's blessings

January 23, 1998


Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Sino Swearingen's plant in Berkeley County is ready, but the aircraft company is not, a Sino Swearingen official said Friday.

Work still needs to be done on getting the new jet design approved by the Federal Aviation Administration before manufacturing can begin, said Mike S. Potts, director of corporate communications.

"That's why we have a building ready to go, but we're not ready to go," Potts said.

The FAA certification is necessary to make sure new aircraft are safe. The inspections may seem like "nit-picking," incorrect shading on a drawing can be a reason to send it back, but it is important to reach the goal of having no accidents, Potts said.


Other aircraft companies have faced similar delays in introducing new designs, he said. Lear had planned a new jet for 1995 that is just now reaching production, he said.

The company had hoped to begin hiring people to assemble the planes this spring, but hiring may not begin until the third or fourth quarter of this year, Potts said.

Potts spoke to about 50 people at the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce breakfast Friday morning at the Holiday Inn.

The company formed in 1995 with Taiwan investors backing American aircraft manufacturers. Sino Swearingen started with about a dozen people and now has about 200 at the corporate headquarters in San Antonio, Texas.

It will cost about $150 million to get the aircraft in production, he said.

The wings and fuselage will be assembled in Spain and then shipped to Martinsburg for final assembly, he said.

The Martinsburg plant's assembly building has 62,500 square feet next to the runway at the Eastern Regional Airport. There also is an adjoining office complex of 25,000 square feet.

The production plans call for four aircraft to be built in 1999, 35 in 2000, 65 in 2001 and 100 by 2002.

As the numbers go up, the number of workers hired will go up as well, he said.

He expects about 20 people will be employed by the end of this year, and 100 by the end of 1999. By 2000, 300 people are expected to be working at the plant, with teams assembling a jet in 25 days.

The company already has 85 orders for airplanes, he said.

Potts showed a sales video for the SJ30-2 corporate jet that Sino Swearingen will build in Berkeley County.

The light jets will cost about $3.5 million each and about $500 an hour to operate.

The price tag may seem high, but in the world of corporate aviation, the SJ30-2 is economical, Potts said.

The SJ30-2 is expected to fly higher and faster at a lower price than similar corporate jets, he said.

The aircraft will be marketed as having a longer range than other comparably priced jets, he said.

The SJ30-2 will have a range of about 2,500 miles, enough to fly from the East Coast to Los Angeles non-stop compared to similar jets with a range of 1,500, he said.

The company plans to start delivering the jets to customers in November 1999.

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